Award-winning British stop motion animator, Cadi Catlow, has worked for high profile brands such as Heinz, HSBC, Motorola, McCain Oven Chips and the BBC. She has also worked on music videos for musicians such as Father John Misty and Run The Jewels. We caught up with her to find out more about how she got into stop motion, her company Studio DOK and her interest in finding out more about puppetry.
When did your passion for stop motion start? How did you get into the profession?
It was 1986 and I was 8, and living on a wet mountain in Wales. The ethos was very much ‘make your own entertainment’, so I guess making films was the literal interpretation of that message. My dad let me borrow his super 8 camera, but the film was rationed to one cartridge per month because it cost an arm and a leg to process. You’d send it away in a little paper packet sealed with a butterfly clip, and then you’d spend a week agonising over whether you’d messed up or not. A cartridge was about 3 minutes of screen time, so after a couple of wasted months running around filming goats chewing, I discovered the ‘single frame’ option and realised the film would last longer if clicked through frame by frame. I used to animate Lego. When I was 11, I took part in a workshop with Aardman Animations’ co-founder, Peter Lord, and he introduced me to the squidgy world of clay. This was 1989, when we all wore clogs and ate bread and dripping.
I fell into the professional side accidentally. People just started paying me to make things and it evolved from that point. I had a little studio with my sisters for a while (3 Bear Animations), and we shot a commercial for Saatchis and did a few other things; short films mainly, and we were active on the festival scene being on juries and whatnot.
When I was 24, I just burned out a bit really. I left and joined the animatronics crew shooting “Harry Potter” and “Children of Men” in London. Six months later I jumped again and joined a Scottish studio in Edinburgh as a lead animator. From there I ended up living and working in Germany for a few years, shooting series and commercials. I ran a studio in Glasgow for a couple of years, then had a break and went back to freelancing as an animator in the UK. I now have another studio, Studio Dok, which was established in Belgium but moved to Barry in Wales just this week!
What’s the most interesting, challenging or fun work you’ve been involved in?
Oh crikey! There are many reasons why things are challenging, interesting or fun! One of the most memorable shoots I did was an all-nighter on the roof of a Manchester towerblock, animating lights and hoping we’d get a nice sunrise timelapse at the end of it. It was ridiculously windy, which made it almost impossible to keep things upright, yet much easier to smell the pizza the rest of the crew were inconsiderately devouring while I ran in and out of shot every 15 seconds, lugging lights and car batteries around! I tend to gravitate towards difficult shoots. I’m attracted to the problem-solving and the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants energy of it, where the crew brainstorm ideas and come out the other side with something special. I do struggle with regularity and doing the same thing month by month.
Can you tell us more about Studio DOK ?
Studio Dok is a brand new company formed in January. We’re probably best described as a creative collaboration headed by myself and art director James Douglas-Brown, with a crazily talented crew spread across the globe. We are primarily stop motion, though we have fingers in many pies and often mix things up. We are an ideas factory – people tend to approach us with problems to solve rather than giving us a fixed animatic to work to. We recently made a viral spot for EU Greens, which we did the creative on as well as the production and post. At the moment we are developing a series which teaches language to migrant children aged 3-8, which has been fascinating because we’ve had to create not only the show itself but the teaching method too. We currently have a music video in post production and we do commercials too, so we have all sorts of things going on.
Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline? What would you love to get involved with?
We have a couple of exciting projects, yes! One is the language series, which is close to testing stage now. It was created in response to the crisis in schools teaching migrant children without any local language. Communication is a hugely important thing for children settling into a new country, not just for their education but also for making friends and reducing the isolation, so it’s a project I’m hoping will make a real positive impact on their daily lives. There’s another children’s show in the pipeline too, but I can’t say much about it yet, and I’m also developing a training scheme to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds access a career in the film industry.
What would I love to get involved with? I’d love to try puppetry, actually. I’ve not yet been given an opportunity, so if you hear of anything..!
Interview with Emma Windsor
To find out more about Cadi and Studio DOK, visit the website: www.studioDOK.com